Last night I watched the BBC (on demand) coverage of the Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in London. No one does ceremony and music like the British.
The sober ceremony, with its essentially unchanging script, got me thinking about the need we human beings have for outward signs and for, above all for decorum.
Decorum can mean several things. It is a technical term from ancient rhetoric for that which is apt in this time and place and for this audience so as to achieve your goal. It also has do with that which is apt in society, boundaries for social behavior.
God knows that we, as human beings, need outward signs to grasp something of the mystery of our encounters with Him and about His plan for us (see St. Augustine, Letters 54-55). God also knows that we need boundaries for our interactions.
What a devastating mistake is this slide into ever greater informality we have been inflicted with for some decades now.
What a mistake it is to strip away the outward signs of propriety or decorum.
Within Holy Church this applies to our liturgical worship as well as to our social interaction. Today I posted about a video documentary on the cassock. HERE I think the stripping down of ecclesiastical garb has also played ruinously with our Catholic identity across the board. I don’t mean to say that clerics should be constantly focused on garb. However, I do think bishops, priests and deacons ought to know how to dress properly according to station and occasion. Sometimes it is necessary to put on all the gear. Sometimes, not all the time. This self-respect, and respect for office, and respect for neighbor, must in turn have a knock on effect among the laity. Proper dress demonstrates respect for self, for office, for vocation and for others whom a priest is ordained to serve.
We need decorum.
It seems to me that this is one of the reasons why the liberals who suffer from Burke Derangement Syndrome™ consistently mention the cappa magna. It is as if they are … scared of it.
The fact is that the use of the cappa is still foreseen today for use outside Rome. It is still proper ecclesiastical garb. Liberals fixate on cappas. They fixate on vestments in a way is truly bizarre. Reading their philippics is like watching someone struggle with serious disorders.
In my experience, based on the Pontifical Masses I have been involved with, the prelates generally endure all the pontifical gear. They submit themselves to what the rites and to what decorum both require.
They put them on because they understand that the garb and the rites are not about them. They endure the discomfort with a cheerful submission because they love the Church and the people they serve, who in turn want to celebrate the sacred mysteries with decorum and reverence. They submit to the dictates of decorum because, as good churchmen, they want to foster the virtue of Religion, love for the Church and her rites and teaching, and respect for the role of the successors of the Apostles. It isn’t about them.
This is the exact opposite of the liberal approach to liturgy and garb. What liberals do screams that its all about them.
I think that liberals instinctively grasp that humility underlies the symbolism of the traditional vestments, the prayers of the older form of Mass, and even the use of items like the cappa, which underscore the dignity of office and not the person. Humility and submission to authority is what they can’t stand, and so they heap ridicule on the rites, the garb and, especially, the people who use them. It’s like a sickness.
It’s not just that they despise the old ways. They despise the people who revere tradition. They despise the people because of their own contempt for authority. Furthermore, they know how wrong it is for Catholics to despise these things and these people and so they lash out with personal attacks.
Decorum is about respect, for our forebears, for our neighbor, and for our posterity.
Finally, I have to ask:
Why do they not write and talk this way about Eastern Catholics with their spectacular golden crowns and magnificent vestments? Even when we Latins put on all our gear, we we don’t do crowns. An attack on traditional Roman garb and ways is an attack our Eastern brethren too. Not to mention the Orthodox. Liberals are particularly taken with things Orthodox these days (cf oikonomia).
UPDATE 12 Nov:
Ann Barnhardt recently made a similar connection between the way a nation treats its fallen soldiers and our Catholic liturgy. HERE